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How to Stay Positive When Everyone Else is Fighting (8 Ways that Work)

Comical Image Of Puppets Boxing
September 22, 2020

You’re probably troubled by all of the conflict you see today. Perhaps you want to make a difference and not become part of the escalating polarization in our world.

The fighting seems endless, with “both sides” of every issue making their opponents seem more and more unreasonable and monstrous. You’ve seen it:

  • Talk shows
  • The news
  • Political ads
  • People taking sides in your community
  • TV Sitcoms full of put-downs, harsh come-backs, and insensitive jokes
  • Social media posts between friends who become “frenemies”
  • Social media posts between ideological enemies (Whew . . . look out)

How do you think our kids perceive what’s happening? As the natural, acceptable way for people to disagree? If so, that’s shockingly unhealthy.

We live in a “fighting culture.” But like fish living in an aquarium, we can’t see it. We are poisoning the water we have to swim in.

Yes, we are spiritually drowning in a fighting culture. It’s become a habitual, societal, expected way of communicating. But does it have to be?

  • Do we have to sink to that level?
  • Do we have an option?

This is Not a Worn-Out Question: “What Would Jesus Do?”

If Jesus were reading our social media posts and watching how we talk while watching TV, would He support these behaviors?

  • Using a mean tone and insulting a person who expresses opposite views
  • Getting angry, loud, and red-faced with another person or while typing in social media
  • Being careless or deceptive when presenting so-called factual information
  • Portraying people who disagree with you as generally “stupid,” “morons,” etc.
  • Disliking, even hating people from “the other side”

Can we truthfully say to ourselves that Jesus would have acted in any of the ways listed here? And couldn’t this list have been much longer, describing all of the destructive and hurtful things people are doing in the name of “standing up for what is right”?

I testify that loving God first and treating my neighbors with love is more important than anything—and it’s expected of us if we are to call ourselves followers and witnesses of Christ. It must come first—no matter how high we believe the stakes are.

How much damage is done when Christians act in unChristlike ways? How can we be a light to others and help others find the way to Jesus if we act in hateful ways? We become stumbling blocks to them and one more reason to toss the message of Jesus aside. (Haven’t you seen this happening on the world stage already?)

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:9-10, NKJV)

What Can We Do to Follow Jesus Today?

Can we speak up for what we believe AND follow Jesus’s example?

Of course, we can.

Here are eight ways to follow Jesus and love our “enemies”:

  1. Refuse to feed into the swirl of negativity and escalating anger. Notice when conversations turn darker and hateful and either stop participating or state that you will only participate in positive, constructive interactions. Jesus showed the wisdom of remaining silent as opposed to feeding into viciousness.
  2. Have empathy for other’s life experiences and reasons why they have a different opinion. People crave being understood. Be willing to listen to others’ life experiences and at least validate that they have reason to feel as they do. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with their recommended course of action. Even though Jesus was sent to teach and not to be taught, He listened and showed empathy for the life experiences of others. That didn’t mean He had to be swayed by their point of view. But in our case, we’re don’t have perfect understanding and we should be open to adjusting some of our views, assuming they don’t fundamentally violate our values.
  3. Think, “I love you as a person even if I disagree with you.”  Jesus gave His life and suffered, even for the people who plotted against Him and condemned Him to a criminal’s death.
  4. Maintain respectful language that focuses on the issues and doesn’t demean people who differ with you. Even when Jesus vigorously condemned wicked behaviors, which He had the right to do—being God in person—He focused on the issues and the behavior. His goal was to instruct and help others make wise choices.
  5. Watch out for polarization, which refers to the practice of making one’s opponents seem even more extreme and dangerous and opposed to your own group’s views. Sometimes, viewpoints and ideologies are completely opposite. But often there is a reasonable middle ground that both sides would agree to. For example, in the recent “Defund the police” argument, it would be helpful if all participants start by openly acknowledging that a) police are necessary and that b) police reform is needed. Throughout the New Testament, you will see how enemies of the Church used extreme statements to drum up fear about the early Christians. (Read this fascinating article about criticisms against the early church including being cannibals, disrupters of families and businesses, etc. It’s quite easy to make others seem sub-human.)
  6. Insist on being fair and balanced. Acknowledge the good in other groups’ or individuals’ accomplishments and intentions. The conventional wisdom today is to vilify everyone who belongs to the “other side.” They don’t acknowledge anything positive that they have ever done or said. But when Jesus was challenged by a Pharisee about the greatest commandment, the man answered well and Jesus acknowledged and complimented him. Jesus didn’t body slam him, so to speak, just because he was a Pharisee. (See Mark 12:32-34, NIV)
  7. Remember how you feel when those who oppose you refuse to acknowledge anything good about you or your ideas. Be the first to extend the goodwill but be ready for the “other side” to step on your kindness anyway. Perhaps they will accept it. But if they reject it, there is still wisdom in doing what’s right because it is right, regardless of the outcome. So doing, we resist the fight culture and stand tall as one who will not abandon love and respect.
  8. Refuse to let the things of this world tempt you into forgetting your commitment to God above all others. Jesus was laser-focused on the importance of landing our eternal souls with Him in the next life. We can do the same by “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV) and His example of “turning the other cheek,” even toward those who treat us spitefully. (See Matthew 5:39.)

A Final Word from an Inspired Man: Martin Luther King

Few men in history deserve such admiration as Martin Luther King.

Martin luther king speaking passionately in large gathering

(Image courtesy of whitehouse.gov)

Ever committed to positive changes to society via love and non-violence, this man’s words and example are worth deeply contemplating:

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from “A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.,” New York: Warner Books, 2000, bold added)

May you feel uplifted once again by the wisdom of Jesus and His ability to lift us out of the darkness of the world into the glorious light of His love.

Jesus's face
Original Painting of Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hoffman

Feature image photo credit: Frank Busch on Unsplash

Learn More about the book: Jesus Christ, His Life and Mine

Cover of Jesus Christ, His Life and Mine with endorsement quotesDiscover Christ’s Power (without a Ph.D. in Bible Studies)

What if you could witness the life of Jesus from His birth to resurrection—as if you were there?

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Twenty years in the making, Jesus Christ, His Life and Mine reflects R. Christian Bohlen’s award-winning skills as an instructional designer plus his thirty years in ministry and church leadership, resulting in this uniquely easy-to-read experience with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Carefully researched and biblically based, this non-denominational book is suitable for all Christians, Bible study group participants, your family members, and friends.

You’ll love how this modern approach to practical faith helps you:

  • Find more connections between you and Jesus than you thought possible.
  • Double-down on your commitment to believe in Jesus (and learn how).
  • Use a powerful visualization technique to love and follow Jesus more.
  • Get energy into your spiritual life (instead of religion in a rut).
  • Learn how you can consistently rise above the negativity around you.

For those who struggle with the idea of faith, there’s a special chapter with fresh points to ponder and non-judgmental recommendations.

Start reading now and feel the power of Christ grow in your life.

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Available in paperback, audiobook, and ebook.

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May 30, 2018

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